Living in the cold waters of the North Pacific Ocean from Japan and Russia to Alaska and British Columbia, the North Pacific Right Whale is, unfortunately, considered to be the rarest of all the large whales due to extensive whaling efforts. While exact population figures are difficult to pinpoint, researchers estimate that there are only a few hundred individuals alive. These large baleen whales were hunted so thoroughly in the late 1800s and early 1900s that species grew endangered quickly.
In 1935, the Convention for the Regulation of Whaling drafted a global agreement to stop the slaughter of the North Pacific Right Whale. Japan and Russia, however, did not sign the agreement and continued their aggressive slaughter of the animal. In 1949, the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling expanded the protection of the species. American researchers determined the species was in danger of becoming extinct in U.S. waters so beginning in 1970 the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) began listing the species as endangered. The species is still considered endangered due exclusively to the slaughter of the animal by East Asian countries.